Laser Portraits, and Other Adolescent Humiliations

Considering the current wave of early-80s nostalgia that's sweeping the nation, especially teenagers who weren't even embryonic in 1981 -- witness the music of Chromeo, the renewed popularity of ironic feathered haircuts, the fevered demand for Marty McFly's shoes and the market share of American Apparel -- it was only a matter of time before the really embarrassing stuff was unearthed. I'm speaking, of course, of laser portraits -- that most 80s of yearbook photos, the laser-beam backdrop which your parents had to pay a few dollars extra for. (That's right; it was usually the kids themselves who wanted it. And now they're paying the real price.)

Apparently the statute of limitations has passed, because people seem to be uploading their embarrassing 80s-era school portraits to the web at an unprecedented rate -- are there are new blogs popping up every day to celebrate them. A personal favorite (thanks, Higgins) is We Have Lasers!!!!!!. Lasered above: Jeffrey.

But there are many more, a quick perusal of which will help us break down the various species of embarrassing portraits. Via Sexy People, there's the always-strange big prop portrait:

Pictured above: Casey, with Cabbage Patch. (Update: probably NOT a Cabbage Patch.)

I'm not sure this is a style of portrait, but it's definitely a style -- via Rad Dudes:

Another 80s portrait trend was what I like to call "soft focus with strange gloves" --

Thanks to Jennifer and Gina, above.

Lest we forget, there's the classic Sears portrait look, where they truck in the background of your choosing -- and usually several, so you have options!

Above via Sexy People.

We'd love to see your embarrassing adolescent portraits -- especially those with odd backgrounds, props, or other embarrassing anachronisms. Send 'em to!

A Very Brief History of Chamber Pots

Some of the oldest chamber pots found by archeologists have been discovered in ancient Greece, but portable toilets have come a long way since then. Whether referred to as "the Jordan" (possibly a reference to the river), "Oliver's Skull" (maybe a nod to Oliver Cromwell's perambulating cranium), or "the Looking Glass" (because doctors would examine urine for diagnosis), they were an essential fact of life in houses and on the road for centuries. In this video from the Wellcome Collection, Visitor Experience Assistant Rob Bidder discusses two 19th century chamber pots in the museum while offering a brief survey of the use of chamber pots in Britain (including why they were particularly useful in wartime).

A Tour of the New York Academy of Medicine's Rare Book Room

The Rare Book Room at the New York Academy of Medicine documents the evolution of our medical knowledge. Its books and artifacts are as bizarre as they are fascinating. Read more here.


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